Dividends Of Unemployment PART 2 (MTN NIGERIA CALL CENTER SAGA, JOS PLATEAU STATE)

    April 25th, 2009 I posted online an article titled ”Dividends Of Unemployment

    I politely expressed my anger over the ill treatment of Nigerian graduates in private owned schools due to the level of unemployment in Nigeria. I have towards the end of the article, the statement below

    ”These are graduates that were nursing high hopes of securing a job in Ministries, Banks, Telecom companies etc”

    The underlined was what prompted the writing of the second part of the article four years later.

    This article is intended to tell the story AS IT IS. Though the point of view is mainly from the staff perspective as the management ain’t talking; it takes no side.

    YEAR 2010

    It all started in June 2010 with the commencement of MTN Nigeria Call Center Jos, Plateau State under an outsourcing arrangement between MTN Nigeria

    and Communication Network Support Services Limited Contact Center Limited(CNSSLCCL)

    After CNSSLCCL management was able to successfully lay claim of the contractor ship license from MTN Nigeria in May 2010 to manage the latest online call centre in West Africa sited in Jos. The Management of CNSSL wasted no time but swiftly commenced recruitment process.

    Graduates were driven from all nooks and crannies of the country to form the stream one of the pioneer task as it was the first of its nature that CNSSL was handling.

    Training went on with its juicy and robust promises. With a kick-off salary of N35, 200 per month. Staff hopes were dashed and a good percentage resigned from the modern slavery package.

    However, with further mouth watering and formal convincing address from the then group Human Resource Manager that after a period of six month probation where by new staff would have been confirm and salaries doubled as well as other benefits, such as recharge card, public holiday allowance and a general upgrading of working condition.

    As at that point, staffs were subjected to a high level of unbelievable inhuman condition. It is bitter to note that stream one staff batch was made to run a 30 days continuous night shift without an iota of compensation, with a strong belief in the management of CNSSL as a responsible corporate body, staff endured the agonies that befall fate, working tirelessly day and night. Sincerely and diligently knowing fully well the pioneer nature of the call centre. With their sweet and toils they were hopeful in the bright promises CNSSL management gave them.

    YEAR 2011

    After the expiration of the 6 months period the work force (staff) expected a smooth recognition and adherence of the CNSSL management to their initial pledges and compensates the perseverance and endurance of the staff. But Alas, CNSSL betrayed the trust and confidence bestowed upon them by this unsuspecting victims of circumstances. Rather, what the management decided to do was to turn their official hammer against the same pioneer staffs that helped built their first public image.

    They did this collapsing an entire team (Team Gold) and further sacking of 18 staff. This action of team collapse and sequent sack of the staff was connected to their agitation that the management should honourably obey their side of the pledge; after all, they had also patiently and diligently fulfilled their own side. For CNSSL to have sacked and collapse a team was aimed at using action as a deterrent to whoever wanted to ask for what they actually deserved.

    This led to a cold-season in the work environment, but agitations continued in low tones such as murmuring; grumbling and general daily look of dissatisfaction on the faces over 99% of the entire staff.

    During the era, CNSSL realizing their brutal act of confronting on a small number among the staff could spring a spirit of unity among the generality of the staff decided to officially confirm some supervisors who have been verbally answering the title “Supervisors” for over 3 to 4 months without any official compensation.

    NOTE: This raises the number of officially confirmed supervisors to ten (10) out of a total of 30 up till date, there are only 10 officially confirmed supervisors who actually receives a salary of N63, 000 (Supervisors Salary) out of a total of 47 supervisors.

    The remaining 37 supervisors were a caricature of what it has been. Still during the cold era, absolute power went into the administrative and management staff of CNSSL management after realizing that the staffs lacks the leadership structure it required to have a common voice.

    Comments such as “my shoe can pay you people’s annual salaries” were heard more than twice in the open from general manager .

    The cold era were full of its agonies and bitter memories as this season marked the highest level of resignation cases experienced in the history of CNSSL.

    Staff preferred to go back to the labour market unknown rather than becoming SLAVES yet again in their own motherland. Out of a total of about 4, 000 staff recruited, less than 1, 500 staff remained indicating that over 2, 000 staff has voluntarily resigned. But as resignation persist which was the only weapon to speak then, CNSSL never for once closed their recruitment window as resignation continues, recruitment continues and in that way, CNSSL was able to cushion the effect of the voluntary layoff embarked upon by the angry staff. Such was the style they used spreading and generalizing the slave wage of 35, 200 per month.

    There is wide disparity in the salary of MTN Jos call centre staff and other MTN call centres across the country. For instance Kano, Kaduna and Lagos call centres are been paid N96, 344 for 16 days and 4 night shift in a month while Jos call Centre receives N41, 351.83k for 18 days and 5 night shift in a month for CCRs on standard calls only.

    In the meantime, agitation continued within but without a spear head or a face to show for the agitators. Initial promises such as the real federal government initiated NHIS, pension scheme, official lines and other benefits suddenly became fairy – tales and the high expectation of hope and breakthrough by the staff became a MONSTER OF NIGHTMARE that stares them in the face daily.

    Everyone saw the need for a union to be able to have a unified voice. The anomaly persisted for almost two years and while adaptation keeps combining with anomaly, everything seemingly looks normal. Staffs were subjected to an abnormal work hour of 18 days – day – shift and 5 day – night – shift in a month, CONTRARY to what was expressly stated in CNSSL staff handbook which stipulates a 16 day – day – shift and 4 day – night shift in a month. Others such as zero provision for transportation of staff who were made to close at 6. 50pm for afternoon shift knowing fully well the security ban of motor-bikes in Jos from 7pm till dawn. And yet expected to clock in by 7am the following day for morning shift, (3 shifts makes a day shift).

    • Morning shift——–7am – 1pm
    • Afternoon shift——12:50pm – 6:50pm
    • Night shift————7pm – 7am

    And this was the cycle of work for everyone without any hope of any brighter conditions. It may sound funny but worthy to note that during night shift CNSSL shares a 10 Naira Buns or Biscuit and a sachet of Peak milk, Lipton or Nescafe with 2 cubes of sugar to staff as the only act of compensating each staff on night shift, such was the level of inhumanity staff was subjected to ON A DAILY BASIS.

    As the population of staff increased from over a thousand to almost two thousand, agitation resumed, this time openly and more coordinated. Help was sought by concerned staff to get their membership registered with Nigerian Labour Congress, Jos Chapter (NLC) and an official brief was sent to NLC, Jos Chapter on the urgent need to intervene into such an ugly scenario that was gradually gaining adaptation by time. NLC Jos chapter opened up communication with the management of CNSSL in late 2011, with an intention to redress the anomaly.

    Between October and December 2011, series of meetings were held between CNSSL and NLC and a new date was picked for January 2012 as a final meeting period to arrive at a reasonable stand point.

    YEAR 2012

    The 2012 early year subsidy nationwide strike overtook the appointment and as NLC tried severally to re-fix the January appointment after then CNSSL started trying to ignore such by dishonouring every meeting notice served them by NLC. This hide and seek plan they played until when there was an inevitable picketing of the CNSSL/MTN Jos call centre by NLC & TUC and other affiliated unions on the 14th of March, 2012. (PICS BELOW)

    (The picketing lasted for 4 days which before being suspended, an MOU was mutually arrived at and signed by CNSSL, NLC and NUPTE.

    The MOU has contents that are as summarized as follows:

    Both parties (CNSSL, NLC & NUPTE) CNSSL Union Jos call centre therefore agreed as follows;

    1. Disparity in salaries and wages of CNSSL Jos call centre will be marked up by 22.5% of net salary across board with effect from 1st April, 2012 and will subsequently be reviewed upward through CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) within 30 days.
    1. In compliance with the Labour Laws and respect for workers Fundamental Right, both parties agree that the process of unionization and check-off dues deductions and remittance should commence immediately.
    1. In view of item 1 and 2, article (2) and 22b as contained in the condition of service of CNSSL should be deleted and replaced with the agreed terms.
    1. The process of Collective Bargaining Agreement to review the existing condition of service should commence immediately and terminate on or before 30th April, 2012.
    1. No workers of CNSSL Jos call centre shall be victimized for joining the union or participating in the picketing.

    Base on the above agreements, the Nigerian Labour Congress Hereby suspends the picketing that commenced on the 14th March, 2012. It is worthy of note the officer/officers that appended their signatures include:

    • Chairperson NLC Plateau Chapter.
    • Asst. Secretary-Organizing/industrial Relations NLC National Headquarters.
    • National President, NUPTE
    • Ag General Secretary, NUPTE
    • Regional Technical Officer, CNSSL
    • General Manager, Human Resources & Administration CNSSL

    From this act of picketing suspension, the call centre unionization was formally initiated and membership gained general acceptance. Agitation continued but patiently for the CNSSL management to respect the MOU they were a party to.

    As the month of April, 2012 went on, the CNSSL management came in from the opposite. They derailed and violated every content of the MOU jointly agreed upon, this they executed by the suspension of Ten (10) staff which comprises of six union EXCOS and four union members. The indefinite suspension saga did not go without a little showdown.

    On the 27th of April, 2012, they were served an indefinite letter of suspension which they CNSSL tried to force upon the EXCOS to sign and further to submit their staff identity card.

    Wisely and rigidly, the EXCOS refused which made CNSSL to abduct these EXCOS members into an inner room and called upon military men (soldiers) at gunpoint and threat to do an undo, tried to force these EXCOS to sign and drop their staff identities.

    But for the quick intervention of the NLC and NUPTE Chairman, Plateau Chapter and the subsequent arrival of members of staff who decided to hold their future in their hands, only God knows what could have happened on that fateful day.

    After the suspension, tension was heightened at the call centre on the new wave of disregard and barbaric act by CNSSL management, and thus staff with a hollowed one voice made up their mind to go and publicly agitate the issue at the forthcoming May Day(workers’ day) that is 1st May, 2012.

    CNSSL management seeing this tendency and realizing (though lately) that these acts of intimidation and aggression has done nothing but helped in unifying the staff more and more, they tried every crooks and means to avert the unanimous May 1st intention of workers to air their plights. On the noon of April 30th, while working the management through the call centre manager announced to every staff working that; every staff should sign out and leave the call centre as they want to FUMIGATE the entire premises.

    This the entire workforce obeyed in acute simplicity. It is worthy to note here that the pranks being played by CNSSL at this stage is to avoid/avert the ugly message that workers protested and/or shut down the office so they hijacked by painting the image they officially closed the centre for fumigation reason. Before this time, fumigations have been done in the past in the same call centre while staffs are on shift (work going on).

    They tried to paint the picture that they are still in control, whereas they have actually lost grip of the control and loyalty of the entire work force.

    The scheduled May Day (Workers day) celebration went smoothly as planned with union members using the call centre as an assembly point (PICS BELOW)

    PIC.9. MTN STAFF, JOS CALL CENTER, PROTESTING OVER SUSPENSION
    OF TEN OF THEIR COLLEAGUES AND SALARY CUT IN JOS ON TUESDAY (1/5/12).

    before migrating to the stadium and airing their grievances. (PICS BELOW)

    After May 1st, CNSSL in their style went on propaganda war mis-informing and under – informing MTN who are the aforementioned contract initiator. They CNSSL tried to mis-inform that the call centre was actually shut down by them for security reasons.

    Later in May 2012, the National NUPTE President came down all the way from Abuja to Jos and met with the Jos call centre suspended EXCOS who have since the suspension being denied physical entry access into the call centre. It is also worthy to note that the April salary which actually reflected the 22.5% increment in the MOU was not paid to all the 10 suspended union EXCOS/members.

    Such was the ugly scenario till when the leadership of NUPTE came and briefed the EXCOS that CNSSL is willing to re-open the call centre but with a fear of; if there will be peaceful co-existence between staff and the management (CNSSL).

    The EXCOS were fast and unanimous in saying, since there was a trend that led to the current development; peaceful co-existence will be guaranteed if these pending (MOU’s) were addressed amicably.

    NUPTE Chairman cannot affirmatively guarantee the reinstatement of the suspended members BEFORE the planned re-opening. At this juncture, the EXCOS demanded if the NUPTE Chairman will be willing to directly pass this information to a larger forum which usually consists of the EXCOS and Team Reps (Two Reps from each Team total 43 teams) before the final congress. This, the NUPTE Chairman agreed to do and hence the meeting called at NIPOST office Jos, Plateau State in May 14th, 2012.

    The NUPTE Chairman actually addressed the mini-congress like crowd and collectively the congress disagreed clearly and openly with the NUPTE leadership that unless the suspended members were reinstated first nothing is short of acceptance to them.

    These position the NUPTE leadership promised to take back to CNSSL and still come back to Jos for a feedback, but to utmost surprise, little did the staff realize in a short while that NUPTE who were supposedly championing their COURSE were mere taking message from CNSSL management and bringing it to the staff as FYI (For Your Information).

    When the executive called NUPTE Chairman about the feedback, he was quoted to say “since we cannot adhere to what CNSSL management said, HE & NUPTE is leaving us to our fate”.

    1st June, 2012, CNSSLCCL made an attempt to re-open the call center without officially reaching an agreement with the staff union. A section of the staff was selected to resume skeletal operation , upon receiving the information, the EXCOS and union members immediately blocked the gate preventing the selected members of staff from entering the premises.

    The following day, the Call center manager and some administrative staff summoned the EXCOS and explained to them that they need to resume skeletal operation plus other issues. A congress was held and concluded that till CNSSLCCL reinstate the suspended members, they will not resume any sort of operation. This conclusion was communicated to CNSSLCCL and few days after, all suspended staff received their outstanding salary.

    Towards the end of the month of June, the management of CNSSLCCL summoned the EXCOS to a meeting at Lagos with all expense paid, this offer was turned down by the staff because the last time such meeting was held, the EXCOS were forced to sign their suspension letters at gun point. The meeting was then re-scheduled to hold on the 3rd of July at Jos, Plateau State.

    On the 3rd of July,2012, CNSSL management came up with a new proposition of salary for the Jos call centre. This they did with meetings with the union EXCOS where CNSSL management expressly stated that the principal partner (MTN) has agreed to harmonize salaries of MTN call centre nationwide under their management and also to reopen the Call center on the 16th of July 2012. The breakdown of the new proposal is given below:

    • 3-6 months = N65, 400
    • 6-months = N70, 850
    • 1-year – 2years = N81, 750
    • 2- Year and above = N93, 750

    It is worthy to note at this juncture that the above breakdown is gross (inclusive of all statutory deductions). After a careful computation of the newly proposed salary with that of other centres, the union found out that the salary scheme is totally different and less than what is obtainable in other MTN call centres under the same CNSSL management.

    After the management presented the new salary scheme, UNION requested that they assist in breaking down the salary scheme reflecting issues such as Net Salary, Taxes Deduction etc.

    The EXCOS notified to allow a fresh meeting whereby other welfare packages can be discussed and an agreement reached. The EXCOS called for a congress and tactically incited the members to REJECT THE OFFER. Most of the members that were clamouring for the acceptance, became mute during the congress ; that was on the 4th of July 2012.

    At that point the management refused to communicate further; rather they sent a mail that the EXCOS have to reply in writing their acceptance of the New Salary Structure else they CNSSLCCL will commence the process of winding down MTN Nigeria Call Center Jos. At this point, division moved in among the staff of the call center. A fraction known as CONCERNED CCRs emerged urging the EXCOS to accept the offer. Most Union members also were of the opinion that the EXCOS should accept the offer in order for everybody to resume work but they the EXCOS apparently refused to listen to the union members.

    A week ultimatum was issued by the management of CNSSLCCL to the NUPTE Jos staff chapter to accept the New Salary Structure else they CNSSLCCL will commence the process of winding down MTN Nigeria Call Center Jos. The Union maintained in contrary to the opinion of Union members that CNSSLCCL will have to breakdown the Salary Structure to enable them know the take home(Net Salary) and also that a unified Salary is preferable.

    On the 11th of July,2012, the following attachment was sent to personal mails of MTN Jos call center staff(PICS BELOW)

    Also on the 13th of July,2012, the following attachment was sent to personal mails of MTN Jos call center staff(PICS BELOW)

    At this point , the damages is done. 1700 Nigerian Graduates are back in the labour market for having the guts to demand for equal pay with their counterparts in same industry under same management of CNSSLCCL.

    On the 16th of July 2012, a congress was held with the presence of NLC chairman Plateau State and Chairman Plateau Youth Council at the front of the Call center(PICS BELOW)

    The NLC chairman promised the staff that all hope is not lost but rather it was CNSSLCCL that lost their contract to manage the MTN call center. He promised that MTN is working toward sending in a new contractor to manage the Call center and reinstate the staff. A date was announced for a world press conference at the NUJ office Jos, Plateau State to tell the whole world the evil MTN is committing in Nigeria since the Nigerian government has turned a blind eye to the plight of Nigerian Graduates at the MTN Call center Jos, Plateau State.

    In the evening of the same day 16th of July, 2012, all staff of MTN Nigeria call center Jos, Plateau State received his/her termination letter and also letter of terminal benefit.

    The terminal benefits eventually hit their individual bank accounts on the 3rd of August, 2012.(PICS BELOW)

    31st July,2012 , A supposed world press conference was held at the premises of NUJ Plateau State in respect to the unlawful sack of 1700 Nigerian Graduates working as Call Center Representatives at the MTN Nigeria Call Center Jos, Plateau State.

    I don’t know the purpose of this press conference, but the intended effect never crossed the boundaries of Plateau State despite the media men in the pictures above.

    On the same day 31st of July, 2012, the Management of CNSSLCCL made a publication stating that they closed the Call center due to insecurity on the Plateau State.

    On the 3rd of August, 2012, The Governor of Plateau State for the 1st time since the issue started, responded to the claims of insecurity by CNSSLCCL and vowed to deal with MTN if they fail to withdraw the publication. The governor ordered that all executive member in the state should boycott MTN and switch to other networks. He also urged the entire State to do the same. But this never happened.

    August 2012 , announcement was repeatedly aired over the state radio stations that every staff of the call center should submit a copy of his employment letter at Dadinkowa Youth center, Jos Plateau State.(Pics Below)

    The staff also contributed NGN1,000 each to enable them take up the case to National Assembly Abuja, Nigeria. While the staff of the call center were busy trying to return their jobs, CNSSLCCL was busy winding the Call center down as they promised. They packed out of their Jos office at NO.1 bethel street Rayfield, Jos Plateau State, then moved all the computers in the Call center to only God knows where.(PICS BELOW)

    October, 2012, the staff line(0706202….) of the staff of the Call center were all terminated. After that all became silent , everything seems hopeless. Regrets took over and baseless rumours started flying around.

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